Billie Jean King Talks Life Ahead of PBS Profile
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Billie Jean King said Tuesday that she couldn’t have revealed herself as being gay in the 1970s because it would have damaged the fledgling women’s professional tennis tour.
King became the first prominent female athlete to come out as gay in 1981 after her partner filed a palimony lawsuit against her.
"I don’t think it would have helped the situation. I think it would have hurt us more because we were just getting started," she told a Television Critics Association session.
The 69-year-old King will be the first sports figure to be profiled on PBS’ "American Masters." Her episode airs Sept. 10 in commemoration of the 40th anniversaries of the Riggs match and the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association.
King told the assembled TV critics that the women’s pro tour was just in its third year of existence in 1973 when she beat Bobby Riggs in their landmark "Battle of the Sexes" match.
"It was such a tenuous position," she said. "We were labeled all the time ’women’s libbers.’ We were just always under the gun from the media. When I played Bobby Riggs, there wasn’t one woman sports reporter (covering the match)."